Unlike the August 1990 implementation of Mandal Commission report by the then V P Singh government the latest move by the Narendra Modi government on 10% reservation for the economically poor upper castes has got almost full support apparently from all sections of the society. Virtually all the political parties have decided to back it.
Ironically, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has voiced its opposition to it. Along with Telangana Rashtra Samiti, it is on the AIADMK that the BJP is pinning its hope for the next Lok Sabha election.
Notwithstanding the near unanimity on the issue there is uncertainty as to whether it will ever be implemented as there are several legal hurdles on its path.
However, what is feared most is that like the then Prime Minister VP Singh the present one may too have to pay the price. Instead someone else may reap the harvest.
If the Bharatiya Janata Party––which withdrew support from the Singh government in October-November 1990 after the arrest of its supremo LK Advani in Bihar––was politically the main beneficiary of the implementation of the Mandal Commission report at the national level and Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav at the state level; this time the situation is quite different. The saffron brigade is likely to face the heat for the shoddy way in which the whole reservation drama was enacted after the rout of the party in the recent Assembly elections in five states––in three of them they were in power.
The Modi government tried to checkmate the opposition parties, especially the Congress, by hurriedly announcing this decision. But the opposition took the wind out of the sail by backing it and thus depriving the saffron party of the opportunity to score a political brownie point
The Modi Cabinet’s January 7 decision had only exposed the panic within the BJP ahead of the poll. The opposition parties have even made its task increasingly difficult by deciding to support the government on the issue. In such a situation if it failed to take the issue to the logical conclusion before the coming Lok Sabha election, the ruling NDA is bound to lose its credibility.
The Modi government tried to checkmate the opposition parties, especially the Congress, by hurriedly announcing this decision. But the opposition took the wind out of the sail by backing it and thus depriving the saffron party of the opportunity to score a political brownie point.
While VP Singh might have lost his power he at least ended up empowering the strong backward castes, especially in north India. Lalu, Mulayam and present Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar are all the products of the Mandal politics.
But with uncertainty looming large over the latest decision on reservation for the economically weaker section of the upper castes, it is unlikely that the BJP government is going to achieve any of its objectives.
If many in the country still question the intention and sincerity of VP Singh, who was then facing a big challenge from his own deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, posterity would not forgive Modi too for trying to make political capital out of the issue of reservation.
His own cabinet minister and former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari has, in a way, questioned the government’s wisdom in announcing reservation for the upper castes.
The truth is that ever since the implementation of the Mandal Commission report the Sangh Parivar and its affiliates have not been speaking in a one voice. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s view on reservation made a month before the Bihar Assembly election in 2015 is said to have cost the BJP dearly in the poll then. This time if the AIADMK makes it a point to distance itself with the BJP then the Sangh Parivar top brass will have to ponder as to how they have gone wrong in doing the homework before taking such a major policy decision. The BJP has already been losing allies in the recent months.